I mentioned in a post about 3 months ago, that I was going to do a few blog posts on my Disney experiences and opinions about the “best way to do Disney.” I assure you – these are just my opinions, and only based on our experiences, but we have had quite the variety of experiences – from traveling at all times of the year, adults only, with kids, multiple families, multiple days, single days… We’ve collected quite the portfolio of different Disney experiences over the years.
Having said that, we’ve found a few tips and tricks that really pay off, and will help save you money, and hopefully maximize your fun. So here we go…
You really don’t have to stay on property
It’s a touchy subject. We were HUGE “staying on property” fans. Even if you can’t afford to stay “on the monorail” (Grand Floridian, Contemporary or Polynesian) you still get Disney Bus transportation – and if you stay at the All Star Resorts, that can mean only a 25 minute trip on the bus. Then we had our 3rd child, and started looking at options. What we’ve found, after trying both ways, at various resorts, is that you can save a ton of time AND money by staying off property. There are numerous hotels and resorts that are “at the entrance” to WDW. If you do your homework, you can easily find a space twice as big, for half as much (we stay at a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo that easily and comfortably sleeps 8). You’ll be able to go to the grocery store and buy food and keep it in a fridge. That allows you to eat breakfast before leaving, and have a cold drink waiting when you get back. The drive ends up being shorter (our max drive ends up being 15 minutes, parking lot to parking lot), and you’re not tied down to the Disney bus schedule.
Speaking of parking lots – there’s a common misconception that to “park-hop” also means paying for parking multiple times in a day. You only pay for parking once/day, regardless of which lots you enter.
There are, of course a few trade offs. Staying off property means you can’t take advantage of Extra Magic Hours at the parks. Our experience, even with kids of all ages, is that if you get up and get moving, you’ll be tired enough by the end of the day to gleefully forego the extra magic. Staying off property also means you don’t have to have the extra magic bananas. I remember vividly staying on property – which means we were tied (food-wise) to the food court. My wife wanted a banana for breakfast. It was $7. SEVEN.
The other thing to consider are what I call the Disney sucker bets. I was having a conversation with our two youngest sons as we took the ferry across the 7 Seas Lagoon one afternoon, back from the Magic Kingdom. We were talking about the new bungalows that the Polynesian Resort offers. They look fantastic! They sit out over the water – something straight out of a scene from Fiji. Problem is – you can’t swim off the dock… the lake is closed to any swimming. So it’s really just a fancy place to sleep. I then asked our kids how many times they actually saw our hotel in the daylight… they couldn’t remember. We get up, hit the parks, and come back late. Why pay $2500/night just to sleep??
Bottom line –
At least investigate what it might look like to stay off-property. You may be surprised at the value you can get!